The Democratic Candidates Virtually Tied Last Night. Here’s What Happens Next.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jim Cole

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton during a break at a Democratic presidential primary debate Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015

Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton essentially tied in the Iowa caucus on Monday night, in a tight race that both camps say will help jump start their bids for the Democratic nomination. Here’s what happened last night, and what happens next:

This was the closest Democratic Iowa caucus in history.

As of early Tuesday morning, with all but one precinct reporting, Clinton had a razor-thin margin over Sanders — 49.86 percent to 49.57 percent. According to the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, the results are the closest in Iowa Democratic caucus history.

The race was so close that several Democratic precincts actually flipped coins to determine the winner — a rare but legal caucus procedure used to break ties. According to the Des Moines Register, Hillary Clinton won the coin flips at all three precincts that relied on this maneuver.

Both candidates are claiming victory.

Clinton and Sanders both say that Iowa’s results are good news for them.

With a mere 0.3 edge over Sanders, Clinton’s camp claimed victory early Tuesday morning. “Hillary Clinton has won the Iowa Caucus,” her Iowa state director said in a statement. “There is no uncertainty and Secretary Clinton has clearly won the most national and state delegates.”

The Sanders campaign, meanwhile, isn’t conceding defeat, saying the tight race should prove to the American people that the Vermont senator can win this election. “I think the people of Iowa have sent a very profound message,” Sanders told a crowd of his supporters. “It’s just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics.”

Sanders and Clinton will split Iowa’s delegates.

Iowa’s 44 Democratic national convention delegates will be distributed almost evenly among the two candidates. Early Tuesday morning, the Associated Press reported that Clinton had captured at least 22 delegates and Sanders had secured 21.

By early Tuesday, multiple outlets reported that there’s one precinct outstanding that’s worth 2.28 state delegate equivalents. Numbers from the Iowa Democratic Party — which said Clinton had so far been awarded 699.57 state delegate equivalents and Sanders had received 695.49 state delegate equivalents — suggests that precinct is not enough for Sanders to close the narrow gap.

It’s hard to say what Iowa’s results mean.

As always, political analysts are torn over what the Iowa caucus results mean in the larger context of the Democratic race. Some of them say that Sanders has effectively cut into Clinton’s lead and is putting her campaign on edge. Others say that, since Iowa’s electorate plays to Sanders’ strengths, a virtual tie is better news for Clinton than it is for Sanders.